Friday, January 29, 2010

It's only been a week since this whole frustrating situation started, and yet I feel like a completely transformed person.

A week ago, on Thursday January 21st, my husband was told he was very possibly shipping off to Haiti within a week's time. Life, as we knew it, became chaos. We canceled two flights to Georgia and I spent the ensuing days and a great deal of money frantically shopping for my husband's departure. He was, meanwhile, putting in very late hours at work, not coming home until nine at night.

On Sunday the 24th, Richard's unit 7-158 Aviation Reserve Unit officially mobilized, calling all soldiers to report to Ft. Hood. These orders included those soldiers who flew in from faraway states on their own dime. Everyone dropped a great deal of money buying new and necessary uniforms and equipment, once again paying out of their pockets.

The next day, they were put on lockdown, told to report at 8 am and not leave the Army installation until the unit shipped out to Haiti. In twelve hours, the soldiers had to get rid of apartments and rental homes, move their belongings into storage, drop out of college, give up potential jobs, and, in some cases, find long term care for their children. Some were forced to extend their service another year, since their tour of duty was nearly complete. Simultaneously, they had to report back to Ft. Hood. Soldiers were panicking and upset.

Each day, for me, was a struggle initially. As I went through waves of intense, gut-wrenching fear and terror at being left with a nine week old infant to moments knowing all would work out, I felt for the first time very grown up. I knew, regardless of how unappealing the situation was, that Richard and I had to do this. This was his job, his commitment and I was completely supportive of that. I knew this would force me to mature and grow in ways I had yet to do. I couldn't walk around the fire, I knew. I had to go through it. And I didn't want to turn back.

On Friday the 29th, Richard's unit was told to stand down; they were not going to Haiti. Initially, one would assume I'd be rejoicing. Actually, I was quite upset. A six-month deployment was far better than a twelve month deployment. He would have gone to a place desperately needing help and had been looking forward to that. I had come so far in coming to peace with the situation. The soldiers had come far and given up their lives to deploy.

Many of these soldiers now have no job, no home to return to. Everyone spent a great deal of money, for which they will not be reimbursed, to prepare. Military families emotionally and practically geared up for the deployment. I, quite frankly, find this infuriating. Will the soldiers be reimbursed their money? No. Will the Army provide them a new living place and job? No. These fine young men and women, who literally gave their all before even leaving, are let go without any support. The military families are reeling, still, from the last week.

In light of this, I will be writing my congressmen, that these men and women at least get financially reimbursed. I encourage you all to do the same. In my opinion, this situation was gravely mishandled. Men and women were treated with complete disrespect. These are the people who defend our country and keep it free. While we sleep on beds tonight under the warm covers, there will be soldiers who will be searching for just that. When you return to the job on Monday, remember those who will be beginning to search. I pray for the soldiers of the 7-158. I hope they get their lives back.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Right now is a time of huge upheaval for my little family. My husband (as previously posted) is deploying to Haiti within the week. We have less than a week's notice and he'll be gone six months. He is being detained at work until at least 9:30 every night, practically eliminating any quality time with his daughter. We still have no idea when exactly he's leaving--could be tomorrow, could be a few days from now, could be next week.

So, I try all day to keep it together. I moments of disbelief, when none of this seems real. The military regulation items sitting on the den floor seem to be stuff Richard wants to remember to take to work (a common habit of his that works). The long hours at work are just temporary due to training his soldiers. Then there are moments when it hits me...hard. I have to stop, breathe very deeply and choke back tears. I am going to be left with an infant, a major adjustment I was still making. I will be forced to live without my best friend for six months. All the help he is (so much!) and the sweet favors he does without being asked will be my responsibility. I am terrified.

But, I am going to try, each day, to name one good aspect that occurred during that 24 hours. Before I turn out my light at night, I will make myself find one good thing, even small, that happened during the day. Maybe less fusses from Elizabeth. Or I was unually peppy during the day. Or, I didn't spill something. I must believe that there will be good through all this bad and hopefully cultivating this habit will aid me in seeing the bigger picture.

Meanwhile, I will just keep telling myself to breathe while I plead for strength.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Whole world could change in a minute..." a country song warbles. How true this is. I am astonished in the changes that have occurred in my life in the last year. I finished planning my Wedding, got married, found out I was pregnant, and had a baby. All wonderful blessings, I would not deny that New Year's also found me praying that 2010 would be a calmer year. That my husband and I could enjoy our new life together at home. Together. At Home.

Then, God decided.

We made the reservations on Christmas Eve. I couldn't wait. My grandparents weren't able to come to my Wedding, due to my grandmother's current battle with breast cancer. I haven't seen them in six years. We've kept in touch letter-writing since I was in the fourth grade. They, more than anyone in my whole life had known my hopes, dreams, fears, and worries. They knew my friends names through school, my drive to do well in everything especially academics, and my ultimate dream of becoming a writer. When I met my husband, he became a frequent topic in our letters and I strongly wished that they all would someday meet.

I had spent the previous nights packing for the three of us and on the phone with relatives, describing our excitement and reviewing plans for then ensuing vacation.We drove to Austin the night before our flight to Georgia and spent the night with friends. At 8:30 that night, our whole world changed, in one minute. The Colonel called. We had to turn back and go home; Richard was on the preliminary list for deploying to Haiti, possibly within a week and a half. We cancelled our flight, woke up early the next morning and hit the road.

I drove so he could field phone calls from soldiers and commanders. He had his blackberry on speaker as they called the names and socials of soldiers who were pulled from the possible list to the definite list. "Captain. Stravitsch, Richard..." While my back stiffened, my heart sank. He was going.

Since then, life has been a whirlwind of planning, preparing, and packing at work and home. The last two days I have been running around town getting items for Richard. A four-way Cross, postcard already stamped. A journal. Today, snacks. Lots of them. He's been at work for hours every night. Last night, he came home at 9:30, after Elizabeth was asleep, and spent the rest of the evening showing little household things I'd always depended on him to finish.

Questions race through my mind. Who's going to empty the trash can in the Nursery while I am going crazy with the baby? Richard's always done that, without ever having to be asked. Who will remind me to water the plants and then chuckle when I've forgotten for the third time that week? Who will help me with Elizabeth in the evenings when I've had a really rough day with her? Who will remind me to turn off the her swing when I take her out? Who will laugh with me and help me in my tears?

I am scared. I have a nine week old baby and will be running a household alone. He will be in a country far away, helping souls devastated by tragedy. For at least a few weeks, we possibly may not even be able to communicate.

In one year. Life changes within minutes, seconds. I don't know what the next six months will bring. I do know, however, that I am suddenly aware of what a weak, faulted human being I am. I will learn much. To depend on myself. That I am a strong woman. Capable. And I will learn humility. "Please help me" will probably continue to fall from my lips, just as I learned this after childbirth.

I pray for prayers. I hope for hope. I worry for Richard. God, though, will keep His mighty hand over my little family, spread over the globe. He never gives us more than we can handle. I keep telling myself that. Hopefully, I can remember to do the same after next week.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sometimes, at complete random, I stop during the day and try to remember where I was a year prior. What was I doing? What life events were swirling around in my life and what emotions were tumbling through me? Today, while spit-up splatted on the floor, a very dirty diaper found its way to the trash can, a bloody scratch to the face wreaked havoc on the bassinet and and Mommy's heart, and screams escalated through the house all day, I tried to remember what I was doing this time last year. Then, it came to me.

Around this time last year, I was preparing for marriage. With about a month left, I was quickly wrapping up the many details involved, watching my mother as she finished sewing my wedding dress, and was attending two bridal showers so lovingly thrown in my honor. I flew to Virginia for one of them. I was so humbled by the number of friends who had put aside their Saturday to celebrate with me. The afternoon was filled with gifts, compliments, advice, and, of course, jokes. My girlfriends teased me the entire afternoon, prophesying about my "honeymoon baby." I set them straight, making them aware we were not going to have a honeymoon baby. "We need time to settle into our new lives." "Richard and I are going to wait a few months before we get pregnant." No, they laughed. You're going to be calling us right after the honeymoon, announcing your pregnancy. I did God.

A year later, and my little house is filled with baby things. A high chair peers at me from across the kitchen. The bouncer and portable mobile on loan from my very generous sister-in-law stand proudly in the den, where they are used frequently during Elizabeth's three o'clock playtime. Richard's weight room was emptied and transformed for a little person who now sleeps in there. I laughed a year ago. Today, I pray and love.

I am not the same person I was before November 19th, 2009. I don't think any woman who grows and delivers a child can be left unphased by that miracle. At the same time, I have more confidence in myself than ever before yet am constantly shaken to the core when I gaze at my child. She is my little person--on loan to me from God. A precious, empty book I am to fill with love and Faith. Everyday is guesswork and, with difficulty, each day is also begun and ended with fervent, fearful prayer for her and for me.

A year ago, I lived in an apartment alone and slept in my own bed. Today, I live in a house again, and share a bed with my best friend. Twelve months ago, I was free, young. Now, I am shackled with responsibility and don't quite feel so youthful anymore. Last January, I laughed at the possibility of childrearing, but secretly prayed God would be so good to me. This New Year, I have learned not to laugh or fear, but to trust, a lesson I re-learn constantly.

As different as life is now, I would never go back. I live for each day and the lessons and experience it might bring. Responsibility, not freedom, has become a true blessing in my life. The reality of children lies sleeping in my bedroom in her tiny bassinet and I acknowledge quite soberly how possible life is.

I cannot help but wonder where life will find my family and me in a year. Some things are certain, like military business. Other things are unknowns, too far in the future to speculate. Regardless, I know that laughing at reality and possibilities are only masks of fear sometimes. But, when that reality arrives, it can truly be the biggest blessing of all.